Phil McTague & Sean Gavin
Headteacher & Head of Sixth form
YSGOL EIRIAS, COLWYN BAY
This is Ysgol Eirias's first Alumni Yearbook, featuring a small selection of some of the stories former students have shared with us during the past 12 months. May we say a big thank you to all those that contacted us!
It is best viewed through your web browser. You can scroll stories that are animated.
To share on social media or by email, use the share buttons bottom left of the screen.
If you're a former student and would like to share your story, please visit www.eirias.co.uk and follow the Alumni links.
We often invite former students back to Ysgol Eirias to talk to the next generations about their lives after school. Their tales never fail to inspire them nor our staff who sometimes are the same teachers the former students often say helped inspire them.
This year we decided to do more to learn about what past pupils do when they leave school. We created an online form and invited people to share with us their stories.
If you wish to share your stories with us you can access the form by clicking here and following the instructions.
We've been overwhelmed with the response and truly gladdened to read of some of the wonderful lives former Ysgol Eirias pupils now lead. The variety of career paths is so wide it's impossible to describe in a few words, and no corner of the planet appears untouched by past residents of this corner of North Wales!
This Alumni Yearbook - our first - represents just a few of these stories. We hope you enjoy reading them. Take encouragement from what past students have achieved. Our hope is that one day it will be your story we will be telling Ysgol Eirias pupils.
WELCOME TO OUR FIRST ALUMNI YEARBOOK
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
YSGOL EIRIAS ALUMNI YEARBOOK 2016
© Photographer Name
ySGOL EIRIAS ALUMNI YEARBOOK 2016
You like art. You enjoy playing computer games. So you reckon you’re the person really good at two things that won’t help your career prospects. Well, here’s Ellen Dudley to prove you wrong.
She left Ysgol Eirias and went into the computer gaming industry via Computer Games Art at Teesside University, gaining a First Class Degree with Honours. She's worked for Microsoft Xbox Studios, Lionhead Studios and SEGA Hardlight. Household names for gamers. Have you played any of the Fable series of games? Ellen worked on it as a GUI (Graphics User Interface) artist.
Ellen admits she never planned to work in the games industry. With supportive teachers and especially supportive parents, she found a career that suited.
I'm lucky to have had parents who have supported me through thick and thin and have never once told me to keep art as a hobby. It was my strongest subject at school and I'm glad I was able to keep going and make a living out of it. My parents were also the first to introduce me to video games at a very young age. I don't think I would be where I am in the industry today without them always encouraging me to pursue my interests.
I think seeing my name in the credits of my first published game was a ground breaking moment. Since then I've been featured as one of top 30 games developers under 30 years of age in Develop magazine. I’ve also had my work published in the official 'Fable Legends' art book, been in magazine articles and have been invited to talk on local radio stations about my work. I'm currently working at SEGA Hardlight as a User Interface Artist, SEGA is one of my dream companies to work for. But the most important thing is the people I've worked with and met along my career so far. They have become wonderful friends and I couldn't wish to have met a better group of people than those in the worldwide game development community.
ysgol eirias: 2003 - 2010
If you could give one piece of advice to school-leavers, what would it be?
Don't panic, you have all the time in the world to find what you want to do. If you are worried you don't have a plan for the future, that isn't a problem. I didn't plan on working in the games industry, I just stuck to my interests and found what suited me. I worked hard and tried to remain open to any opportunities that appeared. Hard work is important, but please take care of yourselves. Life isn't just about working. Take time out to do things you love that have nothing to do with your chosen career path.
After all these are the things that will inspire you and make you happier in life.
gaming is a career, too!
Ysgol Eirias Alumni Yearbook 2016
(C) Maggie Stevens
Aaron has designed, built and runs the world’s only submarine control room simulator created solely for research purposes. A sentence you’re unlikely to find on many CVs – and even more unlikely given that Aaron left Ysgol Eirias with an interest in law! How did he go from prospective lawyer to helping to shape the future of submarine control room design?
By working as a labourer on a construction site. Yes, really.
“After leaving school I started a Law degree at Lancaster University,” he said. “I had always been interested in law and had undertaken work experience at both a barristers chambers and a local solicitors firm to enhance my prospects. After the first semester however, I decided that the law degree was not what I had hoped it would be and so decided to leave the course.
“I then spent the remainder of the year working on building sites as a labourer. This was valuable experience where I learned some basic construction skills. I decided to reapply to University and this time undertook a BSc in psychology at the University of Liverpool. I really enjoyed the course - partially because the department where I studied specialised in forensic psychology, meaning that I still had exposure to law but from a different perspective.
“After that I worked in the social sector. I was involved in the management of a program aimed at engaging offenders and substance abusers with their local community. I then went on to complete a PhD at the University of Liverpool. My thesis examined the cognitive function and physiology of authorised firearms officers during simulated armed confrontations.”
How about that for a career path! And now?
“I am currently a Research Fellow at the University of Southampton in the engineering department. I evaluate the design of current submarine control rooms, whilst also examining future control room design and technologies by running experiments with submariners. I have been actively involved in the design, build and running of one of the only submarine control room simulators used solely for research purposes in the world.”
And that was where Aaron’s construction skills came in handy.
“My degree and PhD allowed me to develop the skills required to conduct experiments and analyse data,” he said, “but the year I spent working in the construction industry has been invaluable when building simulated environments. This shows that when things don’t immediately go according to plan you should continue to be motivated and acquire skills, as you never know in what context you might use them in the future!”
The opening of the submarine control room simulator was also a great day. It was unveiled by a Commander from the Royal Navy and attended by an operational submarine command team. The feedback received was very positive and vindicated the work that had been put in to the facility.
Myself and a group of friends from Ysgol Eirias travelled across Europe in a secondhand van bought at auction. We renovated the van to include a bed and other travel essentials. It was a really great experience undertaking such a challenge with a group of friends I had known for a long time. We ended up driving across 10 countries including Croatia, Hungary and Slovenia.
ysgol eirias: 1996 - 2003
"Best advice? Take your time when making big decisions - don’t be rushed into making them."
i help design submarine control rooms
I studied percussion at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London. While studying, and upon graduating, I worked as a freelance percussionist, which included leading a group of drummers at the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony and performing with the Hofesh Shechter Dance Company.
I have been working for the London Symphony Orchestra since January 2015 - covering roles in Marketing, as Personal Assistant to the Managing Director, and in Fundraising. I've just relocated from London to Wiltshire to take up the role of Marketing and Communications Officer at a charity called Prospect Hospice.
Recent personal achievements include running Tough Mudder (a 12-mile military style obstacle course, which includes swimming through ice, being electrocuted, and crawling through a lot of mud...) with my twin brother, Aidan, raising over £600 for Whizz-Kidz. I recently fulfilled a life-time dream of meeting elephants on a trip to south-east Asia.
If I could give one piece of advice to school leavers it would be to work hard, to see the world, and not to worry if you don't have your life planned out - make the most of the opportunities that arise, you never know where they might lead.
ysgol eirias: 2002 - 2009
Inbetween school and university I gained my Yachtmaster Ocean Qualification and used in to work as a professional yacht crew member before and during University. I also volunteered for a marine conservation charity working alongside indigenous communities in Madagascar to promote sustainable management of maritime food resources and the environment on which they depend.
Sport has been a big part of my life since leaving Eirias. I was heavily involved in field of play safety at London 2012s Rowing and Canoeing events. I went on to become joint aquatics water safety manager at the European Games 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan.
I took a particular interest in ocean and atmospheric dynamics at university and completed research into quantitative changes occurring in the Northern Atlantic and their effect on the climate of Europe. I completed my university career with a 2:1 Master of Science degree in Oceanography from the University of Southampton.
I took part in a graduate leadership development programme after graduation. The programme is run jointly by the London Law Trust and British Exploring. The aim was to empower us with the knowledge and mindset to succeed in our future careers. This is helping me shape my future career choices and I ensures I do things that satisfy and interest me.
I now work as a Catastrophic Risk Analyst for Transatlantic Reinsurance. I help quantify natural perils and the effect they may have on existing and future business. I have recently qualified with an Award in London Market Insurance and Certificate in Insurance.
On a personal level I have competed in Triathlon at national level (2012, 2013) and gained selection to compete in the British University Track Cycling Championships in spring 2014 where I earned a bronze medal. I also completed a Tough Mudder in aid of Wizz Kidz with my twin sister and hope to run the London Marathon in 2017.
Aidan and Felicity Hindle have had quite eventful lives since they left Ysgol Eirias. Felicity led drummers at the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics. Aidan's career is dominated by the sea - he worked for a marine conservation charity in Madagascar and studied Oceanography at University. And above, Aidan and Felicity celebrate becoming Tough Mudders, raising money for charity.
WordPress is software that powers about a quarter of all the websites in the world. Developer Rhys Wynne contributes to the "open-source" code that makes it the most popular website-building tool on the planet.
After Eirias, Rhys went to Liverpool University where he studied Computer and Multimedia Systems. He now works as a lead developer for Digital Marketing Agency FireCask. He's also a director of his own company, Winwar Media, which published its first book in 2013, bbPress Complete (bbPress is forum software by the same people behind WordPress).
So just remember: the next time you're updating your website, there could be a little bit of code in there from Rhys!
Being recognised for my contribution to WordPress's 3.9 Release (entitled "Smith"). WordPress is a piece of open source software that I both professionally and personally support, so it was nice to be recognised amongst my peers for my contribution to the WordPress project.
A memorable personal highlight was spending 3 weeks following Wales around France for Euro 2016. I've been supporting Wales' football team since 1994, and going to matches since 2010. I never thought I'd see Wales qualify for a major tournament in my lifetime, so it was great to actually see us not only qualify, but also impress. But the trip had so many memories that even if we played terrible it wouldn't have mattered!
"Never stop learning. Pursue your interests as they can become harder to maintain after you leave school..."
ysgol eirias: 1995 - 2002
THE BRAINS BEHIND YOUR WEBSITE
ysgol eirias: 1997 - 2004
It's been a year Kimberley Warner will never forget. After her film was Oscar nominated in the Short Documentary category she graced the red carpet in Tinseltown for the annual Academy Awards.
Kimberley co-produced Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah, which tells the story behind one of the most influential documentaries ever made - Shoah - with its nine-and-a-half hours of interviews with Holocaust survivors, witnesses and German perpetrators.
Kimberley's day job is Development Executive for Ffilm Cymru Wales, helping filmmakers born or based in Wales to get their projects off the ground. At other times she's producing and directing other projects, or promoting at film festivals around the world.
Kimberley was approached by British director and producer Adam Benzine about working on the documentary but initially had concerns about it.
“I wasn’t sure at first because I already had a full time job. I saw Shoah eight years ago. I was very respectful of it and to be honest I didn’t think I’d have the courage to make this film. There was a lot of pressure on us.
“Making this documentary was a huge learning experience for me. It’s an intense and very emotional way to learn about something.
“Of course we studied the Holocaust at school but it's too easy to feel a kind of distance from something so horrific. When I did History A Level it felt like something that happened so long ago. Through making this film I developed a much more personal relationship with it. The horror really hit home, and I was shocked by the things Claude went through to get the documentary made.”
At Ysgol Eirias Kimberley wrote poetry and was encouraged by English teacher Mrs Aldred to maintain her creative spark. She studied drama at GCSE level and performed in school plays but wasn't sure she wanted to be centre stage.
“All I knew was that I wanted to do something creative and Mrs Aldred inspired me. She was one of those teachers – I think we all have one – that somehow do that something extra to make you think 'this is possible'. Eirias was a great school and the group of friends I made there, who are all very successful, are still my best friends.”
It was only when she studied English at Oxford University that the curtain rose on a possible career in film making.
She began her career as a script consultant before becoming Head of Acquisitions and Development for two film distributors. She worked with respected filmmakers including Ken Loach.
She believes there are good times ahead for the movie industry in Wales, too, especially with support of other countries.
“Wales has a brilliant TV industry and now its film industry is growing too, so these are exciting times. We are a small nation with a huge amount of talent. So collaboration is key. A large amount of the films we fund are co-productions with everywhere from Ireland to Canada”
And she has advice for anyone thinking of following in her footsteps or thinking of making their mark in the filmmaking industry.
“Don’t be intimidated. There’s a belief that you have to be very well-connected or living in London to make a career in film happen. Yes it’s a challenge, but not one that can’t be overcome. The good thing about this industry is that talent still shines through. There are specific funds like Ffilm Cymru orientated around Welsh talent Be conscious of your first impression with everyone, because you never know who’s going to be able to help you get on.”
Find out more on the Ffilm Cymru Wales website.
Kimberley Anwen Warner
picking up the financial pieces
The UK's financial regulators have had plenty of work since the crash in 2008. Not a bad career path for Greg Hughes, who joined the Financial Services Authority (as it was known then) just a few weeks after Northern Rock collapsed.
"I currently work in the Compliance department of an investment bank in London," he said. "My role involves advising the firm on UK and European regulatory developments, which have been plentiful since the financial crisis in 2008. I also help the firm prepare for reviews by regulatory authorities."
While completing a BA in Management Studies at University of Nottingham Business School, Greg was a member of a student organisation called Students in Free Enterprise (Now called Enactus), a university equivalent to the Young Enterprise Award. His university won the national competition against other UK universities three times in a row and he travelled to the "World Cup" in Toronto, Paris and New York as part of the winning team.
"I am a very big fan of travelling," he added. "One particular highlight was travelling to Indonesia with my fiancé’s father who had never been on a holiday before in his life. It was amazing to see someone experience so many things that others take for granted for the first time."
Another highlight for Greg was organising a secondment to work for a company in New York in 2010. "I spent the summer there and it was an incredible experience. I was the first person in my company to arrange an international secondment outside Europe and was able to help others do the same after my return to the UK."
Greg has great advice for school-leavers. "Never stop learning. Leaving school represents the beginning of another steep learning curve in life that can seem quite daunting at first but, whatever path you choose to take, make sure you fully immerse yourself into the experience. Listen to and learn from as many different people from as many different backgrounds as possible – it will broaden your mind, expand your world view and present you with a multitude of opportunities in the process."
"Listen to and learn from as many different people from as many different backgrounds as possible – it will broaden your mind ."
ysgol eirias: 1984 - 1991
Sarah Ellwood (née Patterson) vowed she would never join her mum Dorothy's "tin-pot" business Supertemps. Yet in 1998, after University years and a role in marketing, Sarah did just that. A business that started life as a typewriter in a conservatory became North Wales' longest established independent recruitment agency and a £2-million-pound-plus turnover business, with offices in Bangor and Colwyn Bay.
"It's a funny thing, business, and quite addictive at times," she said. "The learning curve and opportunities really are endless if you are focused. Business is about respect and being as good as your word. If you promise one thing and deliver another there won't be repeat custom."
Completing the Welsh 3000s challenge some time back (15 peaks over 3,000ft in under 24 hours). I did this with just one other person and it was an incredible experience from Bivvying on Snowdon and losing my contact lenses in the torrential rain, under the grids surrounding the (then) old café, to experiencing every emotion from elation, determination and persistence to despair, disorientation and hallucinations over the last section. It was bizarre, wonderful and awful all at the same time and taught me a lot about myself."
We’ve been highly commended in several National Recruitment Awards which I’m really proud of. When we’re up against the big national agencies in the cities and there’s us from little old North Wales, it gives us a real feeling of achievement so I’m really proud of my team and company on that score. One of my biggest professional achievements was growing the company an average of 40% per year during the worst years of the recent recession. We made some tough decisions and decided to invest massively and grow. It worked and not only did we survive the recession, but we came out a lot stronger than we went in.
BEST BIZARRE STORY (not for the faint-hearted)
Flying out to China to identify and repatriate my father’s body after he died in Shanghai. It was a cultural eye opener right through. I was asked to pick his bones out of the crematorium fire by hand (custom apparently). I passed on that. Then I had to sit on a wall outside the crematorium and wait for his bones to be cool enough to take away (they were still warm in the taxi on my knee). When I boarded the plane I had to show his passport alongside the box of bones (could they see the likeness?!). I flew home with the box of bones in the overhead locker (do you know what’s in the locker above you when you travel?!) and finally had to grind his bones to ashes when I returned. It was a crazy experience which I will never forget but can actually look back on and smile about now . . .
If you could give one piece of advice to school-leavers, what would it be?
Push your comfort zone daily. You’ll grow as a person quicker and all those scary things will become a walk in the park
your job is my job
ysgol eirias: 1994 - 2001
Paul is an airline pilot for one of Europe's largest airlines flying the Boeing 737. He was previously based in Amsterdam but this year moved to the Iberian peninsula.
He said: "I moved to Ysgol Eirias after my GCSEs and really enjoyed my time in sixth form. The teachers were brilliant and I met some of my best friends there who I am still in touch with 15 years since leaving. I did well in my A Levels thanks to the support from the school and found it to be a great platform from which to go on to university."
Phil studied Computer Science at Cambridge University and went on to start his own software (games) company (www.projectedgames.com). Since then he has worked at Microsoft, Google and now Facebook.
He leads the team responsible for growing Facebook's Audience Network product which helps mobile app developers make money by putting Facebook-targeted ads in their apps. He was part of the founding team for this product, now a billion dollar business for Facebook.
ysgol eirias: 1999 - 2001
Luke gained a first class mathematics degree followed by a PhD at Portsmouth University. He wrote five journal articles in the field of dynamical systems. A dynamical system consists of a set of possible states and a rule which determines the present state in terms of past states. They are often used to model real world problems.
Luke won the best paper prize at a research conference in 2015. He was awarded the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications (IMA) prize for outstanding academic achievement in the final year of his degree in 2012. “Both of these were massive confidence builders and showed that hard work pays off,” he said. Thanks to his achievements he has met with internationally-recognised mathematicians.
Luke is now a trainee teacher at Bangor University and is involved in collaborative research with a mathematician from the Open University.
His advice is simple to get involved in as many things as possible. “One of my biggest regrets now is that I didn't participate in many extra-curricular activities when I was at school,” he said. “I was able to make up for it at university by (among other things) becoming a student ambassador and an elected course representative.
“I took part in three staff sports days at Portsmouth University to raise money for brain tumour research. It was a great experience and a lot of fun to work in a team with friends/colleagues competing in different events and helping a good cause.
“There are so many opportunities to try new things (especially at university), all of which will look fantastic on your CV and develop you as a person.”
Like to read one of Luke's papers?
Try "Renormalization of correlations in a quasiperiodically forced two-level system for a general class of modulation function."
Click here to visit the University of Portsmouth's Research Portal from where you can download the paper in PDF format.
"There are so many opportunities to try new things, all of which will look fantastic on your CV and develop you as a person."
If you're a former Ysgol Eirias student and would like to join our Alumni programme, fill out the form on our website at www.eirias.co.uk and follow the Alumni links.
Many thanks to all the former students who agreed to appear in this yearbook and helped with its compilation.
Copyright Ysgol Eirias 2016
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